NCFL Election Preview: Alachua County Commission District 2

NCFL Election Preview: Alachua County Commission District 2
Published: Oct. 14, 2022 at 6:22 AM EDT
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - Ed Braddy and Marihelen Wheeler are running for the district 2 seat.

They both have years of experience in city or county governments.

Marihelen Wheeler was elected to the county commission in 2018 and is serving as the chairwoman right now.

She said she brings a senior perspective that is necessary to the board, “50 years ago we were part of a revolution working for human rights, civil rights, equal rights. And 50 years later we are still working for those things. I represent a demographic that needs to be heard because we’ve been there, seen it and we know what works and doesn’t work” said Wheeler.

Ed Braddy is the chairman of the Alachua County republican party and a former Gainesville city commissioner and mayor.

He says he is a “defender of regular ways” and wants to challenge the status quo in Alachua County, “There is a political monopoly that runs local government. It’s an ideological mindset that has not changed for 20-25 years so the same set of ideas, different faces, but the same set of ideas are brought to bear on our localized problems and the localized problems continue to get worse” said Braddy.

Braddy references problems with infrastructure, taxes, and creating jobs.

If elected, he said one of the things he proposes to do is peg a millage rate reduction to the rise of inflation since 2021, “That would mean a real substantial tax cut in your property taxes, which is one of the main tools that the county has to raise revenues is the property tax” said Braddy.

Wheeler is very environmentally focused and says her proudest accomplishment in office is turning Camp McConnell into the Cuscowilla Nature and Retreat Center, “That place is owned by the citizens of Alachua county, and it is being used already by our students who are coming in for free summer camps and also the citizens of Micanopy who are able to use the swimming pool, It is open to the county as well” said Wheeler.

Wheeler did also address a lawsuit about her not living in her district at the time she was elected.

She denied the accusation, but that lawsuit is still open and active in the courts.

She said it should be resolved before the election.

One of the major ballot items for November’s election includes the additional half-cent sales tax for Wild Spaces and Public Places.

The addition would go towards infrastructure and affordable housing efforts.

Braddy does not support it, he said the county already has funds to support these areas, “We have a core general fund that is paid for and made up of things like property taxes, gas taxes, other fees, and such. That is supposed to take care of our core services. So when they proposed the new Wild Spaces tax and say we will be able to fix some roads with it, what they are really saying is that they are not fixing our roads with our general fund that we are all paying into already” said Braddy.

Wheeler does support the half-cent tax bump, she said because of the amount of people that travel to Alachua County, “It’s the only way we are going to be able to get a tax increase in the county. After going to the Kentucky v. Florida game, I realized how many people. 90,000 people is a lot of folks. They use our infrastructure here. It only makes sense that we include that so that we can have the folks coming through here take care of the infrastructure”

Another ballot item is a proposal for the county commission to move to single-member districts.

This change would guarantee representation for areas outside of Gainesville.

It would also likely bring a greater republican presence to a democrat dominated board.

Wheeler does not support it, “I really believe that the five of us working together as a team for each municipality gives us more strength to make sure that those communities have the unique attention that they deserve,” said Wheeler.

Braddy supports single-member districts, “It’s just curious that this is even controversial. In the city of Gainesville, where I was one-time mayor, there are single member districts and absolutely no one fusses about representation in their district as well as being concerned about other things in the city” said Braddy.

As for the recently passed rental permitting program ordinance, Wheeler did vote for it.

Braddy says he would not have done so.

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